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What is most important factor in digital audio playback quality?

What is the most important factor in digital audio playback quality?  

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On 7/11/2019 at 8:43 AM, firedog said:

The most important factors are your room and your speakers.

I agree with your statement if only speaking of the equipment doing to presentation.  The recordings themselves (performance, mixing, mastering, media, etc) also are super important.

 

Since most of us are interested more in the 'performance', that is the 'music', the other factors that I mention are also important aspects that determine quality (assuming that the performance is the 'ultimate' quality.)

 

Consumers have so little actual control over 'mixing' -- which is almost part of the performance, then there are still two aspects that the consumer can improve A LITTLE.   This would be by choice of the media -- Redbook, vinyl, 192/24, DSD, etc.  Also, there are differences in mastering (e.g. different releases of almost the same title in different countries can have different mastering.)

 

When it comes to difference in sound -- the most important aspects include 'room', 'speakers'.  Also, the other big differences are 'vinyl' vs 'analog tape' vs digital.  Also -- mastering makes a huge difference, often moreso than 192/24 vs 44.1/16.

 

In my world (however perverse) -- my priority of optimization is:  1) recording (as a package, that is media, music, mastering, etc), 2) speakers/room, 3) convienience, etc.   This is all assuming the high quality typically available today for things like amplifiers, etc.

 

Given essentially the almost 'Victrola' quality typically available for music of my own taste (1965-1990), the lowest hanging fruit is finding the better recordings.  Next, the audio transducer (speakers/room/headphones), then the rest.  Again, assuming the typically good quality equipment normally available today -- not something like an amplifier from 1970, TIM city, or Koss Pro4/A, type thing.

 

John

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"The recordings themselves (performance, mixing, mastering, media, etc) also are super important"... and a consumer can sometimes choose among different versions and formats.

 

I think the whole thing needs to be based on what a consumer can choose.  Loudspeakers are easy, room tmts. are pretty easy, new room is difficult, "versions" also difficult.

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7 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

"The recordings themselves (performance, mixing, mastering, media, etc) also are super important"... and a consumer can sometimes choose among different versions and formats.

 

I think the whole thing needs to be based on what a consumer can choose.  Loudspeakers are easy, room tmts. are pretty easy, new room is difficult, "versions" also difficult.

Amps and DACs are really easy, and software literally takes just a click of the mouse. This explains a lot.

 

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11 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

"The recordings themselves (performance, mixing, mastering, media, etc) also are super important"... and a consumer can sometimes choose among different versions and formats.

 

I think the whole thing needs to be based on what a consumer can choose.  Loudspeakers are easy, room tmts. are pretty easy, new room is difficult, "versions" also difficult.

 

I would admit that it is a mega-difficult problem when there are no accurate reviews for the recordings, and the distributors can sell any poor quality that they want to sell.   People sometimes review poor 'listening' quality as good -- simply because there is no comparison anymore.   That means, the wonderful 'speakers', 'headphones', 'amplifiers', '$1000 wires' are not really able to provide the quality/accuracy than they should be able to provide.

 

John

 

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Speakers have more problems than any other aspect of a playback system.  Different speakers sound more different from each other than any other aspect of the playback system.

For #3, the recording chain, including choices made in mixing and mastering, are the most important factor(s).

On 6/27/2019 at 4:30 PM, mansr said:

A DAC is both analogue and digital.

Yes, and the analog section of a DAC is often the most important factor.


ROON: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModule-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY AC, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.                                                        
                            

                                   
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I almost exclusively stream my music, so my preference for digital is a given. I do have a few GB of red book rips on my NAS, mainly music I grew up with. In my opinion the space, the room has the greatest effect on sound quality and feel. It's hard to make any equipment sound good in a wrong sized space with a lot of reflective surfaces.

What really bothers me today in streaming is the way most of the available music is compressed. Everything, at least new releases, is stepped on way too hard.

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22 minutes ago, Seraph said:

I almost exclusively stream my music, so my preference for digital is a given. I do have a few GB of red book rips on my NAS, mainly music I grew up with. In my opinion the space, the room has the greatest effect on sound quality and feel. It's hard to make any equipment sound good in a wrong sized space with a lot of reflective surfaces.

What really bothers me today in streaming is the way most of the available music is compressed. Everything, at least new releases, is stepped on way too hard.

Sometimes I think the emphasis placed by many on the room on these forums is in error.  But, that is because my room is not really bad, in fact, for a domestic space, my room is really pretty good.  I get a reasonably flat RTA without much trouble here, and I do not really have parallel sidewalls to contend with, or any back wall problems.  Some rooms are horrendous, and virtually impossible to tame, even with DSP (square rooms particularly).  So I think the importance of the room is entirely dependent on the specific situation: not everyone has this problem, but if one does, i do agree that this problem can be very significant.


ROON: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModule-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY AC, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.                                                        
                            

                                   
                                                                            SONORE computer audio

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27 minutes ago, barrows said:

Sometimes I think the emphasis placed by many on the room on these forums is in error.  But, that is because my room is not really bad, in fact, for a domestic space, my room is really pretty good.  I get a reasonably flat RTA without much trouble here, and I do not really have parallel sidewalls to contend with, or any back wall problems.  Some rooms are horrendous, and virtually impossible to tame, even with DSP (square rooms particularly).  So I think the importance of the room is entirely dependent on the specific situation: not everyone has this problem, but if one does, i do agree that this problem can be very significant.

We live in a loft apartment, basically a converted attic. While the apartment is beautiful with its high ceilings and a spiral staircase, there are a lot of angled surfaces which makes it hard to predict good speaker and sub-woofer placement. Room treatment is a compromise as there is a balance between efficiency and married life. When asked I usually prefer larger decorative textile pieces of art if the question comes up. Though I think shes on to me. :)
There is of course DRC but I prefer to keep the signal from source to speaker as simple as I can. I might do some experimentation when I find the time for it.

 

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1 minute ago, Seraph said:

We live in a loft apartment, basically a converted attic. While the apartment is beautiful with its high ceilings and a spiral staircase, there are a lot of angled surfaces which makes it hard to predict good speaker and sub-woofer placement. Room treatment is a compromise as there is a balance between efficiency and married life. When asked I usually prefer larger decorative textile pieces of art if the question comes up. Though I think shes on to me. :)
There is of course DRC but I prefer to keep the chain from source to speaker as simple as I can. I might do some experimentation when I find the time for it.

 

Actually, to me, the room you are describing sounds like it may be better than most, normal, rectangular rooms (or much worse, square).  The one thing I wish I had was a higher ceiling (mine is normal 8').  I find a bunch of angled surfaces to be more desirable than a typical parallel wall configuration, as long as one has some freedom in where to place the listening position.

As all my playback is via computer digital source files, adding DRC without any further complexity in terms of hardware would not be difficult, but i just do not find any need for such here.  I find that through speaker placement and sub controls, I can get to what I am after, but I live alone (my GF lives here sometimes, she is on the road  a lot, and has a place of her own in FL) so i have a lot of flexibility in placement and set up!


ROON: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModule-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY AC, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.                                                        
                            

                                   
                                                                            SONORE computer audio

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27 minutes ago, barrows said:

Actually, to me, the room you are describing sounds like it may be better than most, normal, rectangular rooms (or much worse, square).  The one thing I wish I had was a higher ceiling (mine is normal 8').  I find a bunch of angled surfaces to be more desirable than a typical parallel wall configuration, as long as one has some freedom in where to place the listening position.

As all my playback is via computer digital source files, adding DRC without any further complexity in terms of hardware would not be difficult, but i just do not find any need for such here.  I find that through speaker placement and sub controls, I can get to what I am after, but I live alone (my GF lives here sometimes, she is on the road  a lot, and has a place of her own in FL) so i have a lot of flexibility in placement and set up!

The living room where my equipment is has an average height of 11'(335cm). It is uneven, thick wooden beams and different ceiling height between the beams. The "walls" are at the same angle as the roof of the building, generally about 50°, old building, lots of work has been done over the past 3 centuries.
I do know that the space isn't terrible, there is lots of cubic feet. But I'm still concerned about all the naked, flat and straight surfaces.
When I was a student I used to work weekends and holidays for a company that ran a recording studio and a back line & front of the house rental service. Unfortunately too much of my free time on the road was spent on recreational activities when I perhaps should have paid more attention to what the old school sound guys where doing.

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I'm going to assert the same thing I've thought all along, the quality of the recording itself!  I sometimes marvel at how good my best RBCD recordings sound, in a collection with every format up to DXD and DSD256.

 

EDIT:  I now see this was already said by Ralph11.  I suppose most of us are trying to think positively these days, but the other side to my last comment would be how comparatively disappointing some "hi-rez" can be even on a fine system 😬

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